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Animated GIF of both McIntyre book covers
The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology and The Practical Skeptic: Readings in Sociology, 3/e
Lisa J. McIntyre, Washington State University

Social Structure

Role strain vs. role conflict

Some of the most practical advice in The Practical Skeptic is found in chapter 8 and deals with role strain and role conflict. These two are closely related and have very many real life applications.

First of all role strain, as mentioned in chapter 8, is when a social role you are playing makes it difficult to meet the demands of another. The advice I give is to prioritize your roles. If your studies are most important, then the role of the studious student needs to be fulfilled before the others. On the other hand, if education is secondary then just do the best you can when your first priority allows; some first priorities might include being an employee, being a parent, or being a significant other.

As for role conflict, I have more advice. Learn who you are and who you want to be. When fulfilling roles be sure they align with who you are. I am not suggesting that we will never have role conflict if we know who we are, just that if we can prioritize our most important roles we will be ahead. When two roles conflict with each other it is usually on the area of expectations of the roles. An example of this is in the information world. Reporters especially have had a history of role conflict. As a reporter doing an interview they might be asked to keep a source private or a name secret. It can be that the interview reveals a criminal history. Later after the interview is in print or on air the reporter is questioned by the police. Role conflict is now a big part of the reporters’ life. When the reporter is faced with contempt of court for not revealing his source what will happen? This all depends on who the reporter has decided she or he is first and foremost: a reporter, or a citizen.